Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series of profiles of studio art majors whose works are currently being featured in the Senior Majors Exhibition.
In some respects, the artwork of senior studio art majors Maxwell Heiges ’10 and Christine Chang ’10 artworks fall at opposite ends of the spectrum of work represented in the department’s Senior Majors Exhibition. Chang’s miniature, detailed installations of whimsical paper cupcakes contrast starkly with the more serious, yet equally intriguing wood and steel sculptures by Heiges, which are situated on the other side of the gallery. Different as these works may be in scale, however, they are united by their ability to command viewers’ attention.
The vast difference between the styles and approaches of these two students accurately reflects the variety of mediums, techniques and subject matters found in the body of work created by the 20 studio art majors whose work is featured in the exhibition, now on display in the Jaffe-Friede and Strauss Galleries at the Hopkins Center. Composed of the culminating experiences and theses of the department’s seniors, the exhibition reveals the variety of artistic styles (from the naturalistic to the most abstract) and materials (including grass, a wooden door and rusty nails) the students pull from to create their works.
While the key difference between the works of Chang and Heiges is simply a matter of scale, viewers should take care not to overlook the importance of the size of the work to each artist.
“It would have been impossible for either of them to do the other person’s work,” studio art professor and Studio Art Exhibition Program director Gerald Auten said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
Heiges’ main piece, titled “Going Home and Back,” stands in the center of the gallery, its limbs reaching up almost to the ceiling. Its dark steel curves in a way that refines the harsh material, while still maintaining the sculpture’s air of power and strength. Heiges juxtaposes these smoother surfaces with straight bars and square steps that give the sculpture an unusual and intriguing look never letting the viewer get away with just one glance. Above all, it is the manipulation of the wood and steal that stands out about Heiges’ works.
“Both of those pieces with the wood and the steel, there’s a kind of softness to them, almost like drawings in a way,” Auten said of Heiges’ other two pieces, “From Harry T’s Head” and “Goodnight Moon.” “The steel becomes like this drawing and the wooden element in both pieces becomes this anchor into which the drawing is somehow related, yet it’s not a pedestal. They’re both kind of sweet in a way.”
According to Heiges, he started welding his sophomore year but had no idea it would become his main focus. Since then, he has been experimenting with different techniques and developed his excitement for welding into successful pieces.
Different as his work may be from that of his peers, Heiges said he found invaluable support and feedback in both his professors and his fellow studio art students. A quarterback for the Dartmouth football team, Heiges originally planned to be an investment banker when he came to Dartmouth. According to Heiges, however, he found himself “hooked” on the studio art department after taking Sculpture 1 during his freshman Fall.
“The studio art department is such a warm family, I knew that I’d be a fool to be anywhere else,” Heiges said, stressing the importance of listening carefully to instructors’ words of advice. “These professors and this community was what I wanted to be apart of.”
Contrasting sharply with Heiges’s sculptures are Chang’s tiny but detailed installations and abstract paintings, which, like Heiges’ sculpture, dominate their space, despite their comparatively miniscule size and radically different approach.
One of Chang’s installations, titled “All of These?,” is made of small, pinky nail-sized cupcakes painted in an array of pastel colors. These cupcakes are attached to pins that march and wind up the walls, forming floral shapes and patterns that make viewers forget they are looking at tiny paper obects.
“It almost seems like it could disappear, yet it has this presence,” Auten said. “One of her installations could fit in the palm of your hand. I love that idea. And then she installs it such that it works with light and pattern and this idea of multiples.”
According to Chang, the inspiration for her miniature cupcakes came to her late one night when she was hungry and working in the studio. Out of this simple design, several pieces were born. Another cupcake installation, “By Me,” consists of several small, roughly notecard-sized acrylic scenes and still lifes, that portray, for instance, a floating boat and even more cupcakes. Scattered among the deliberate arrangement of these paintings are several more cupcake pins.
“I really like small things that’s just my personality,” Chang said. “It all sort of comes together, putting it up in installations and things and grouping them I didn’t really do that before, but I know I like doing it in my life. Like organizing little things or when I put up pictures, I like spacing them out and doing cool things with them.”
Chang also has an installation in the display case outside of the Strauss Gallery featuring five smaller pieces. These are paintings of an array of objects, such as ice skates and a red prom dress, covered with cupcake pins that are color-coordinated with the painting behind them.
Despite their outward differences. Chang and Heiges both of whom will have their work displayed in residence halls as winners of the Residential Life Purchase Award, sponsored by the Class of 1960 are similar in that they both managed to find a niche within Dartmouth’s studio art department.
“They both have this very specific area of interest they kind of clung onto like a bulldog and really pursued it to its conclusion,” Auten said. “The craft in both people is just impeccable.”